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Spring 2018 Postgraduate Forum Report

The 2018 Spring forum was held on 14th March in the “Treehouse”, Humanities Research Centre. In this new environment, there were presentations from people early on in their research as well as those close to submission. The range of topics demonstrated the impact and significance of music beyond the department walls.

First up was in-coming PhD student, Lusha Li, who gave a fascinating paper on the impact and significance of ancient Chinese stages. This talk prompted a detailed consideration of just how significant the performance space is in contemporary arts, and challenged us to think about the functionality of different kinds of stages and venues around the world.

Continuing an unintentional theme of a site-specific impact on music, Jack McNeil introduced some of the background ideas behind a future installation-based work relating to electronic dance music and club cultures, including the phenomenon of “temporary autonomous zones”. Jack’s work looks at the complex interrelationships of location, space and place and how this can affect composition.

In anticipation of the premiere of Carlos Zamora’s recorder concerto that evening, he and Carmen Troncoso (recorder) gave a joint presentation on this piece from their respective perspectives. This session was chaired by flautist, Jenni Cohen. As well as introducing the influence of pre-Columbian folk music elements on the music and live demonstrations, the husband-and-wife duo discussed the changing nature of their collaborative processes over the years.

carmen carlos

Carlos Zamora and Carmen Troncoso talking about Zamora’s recorder concerto


Carmen Troncoso on performing the concerto


The second paper session started with Samantha Caffull, a part-time PhD student in the field of music and education and a full-time Music teacher. Samantha’s paper introduced a recent study she had undertaken on motivational goals in the classroom. Samantha’s hands-on approach extended to the audience members being invited to take part in evaluating the response of this teaching approach, rating whether either mastery or performance goals were prioritised.

Next, Claire McGinn (third-year PhD) gave a paper that re-contextualised the Australian-born composer, Percy Grainger. Confronting head-on the cognitive dissonance issue of ‘putting aside’ negative accounts of Grainger’s character before his music can be appreciated, the paper argued that Grainger is not simply to be swept under the carpet as a distasteful anomaly, but that his behaviour is, in part, the responsibility of white (post)colonial culture.

To complete the session, Liam Maloney gave a fun and imaginative paper examining Miles Davis’ final studio album, “Doo Bop”. Liam introduced the context surrounding this album, how it stands out with its combination of jazz improvisation and hip-hop, and how it was regarded as something of a low-point in Davis’ output. Against this Doo-Bop back-drop, Liam constructed a speculative future for Davis through newly orchestrated collaborations, drawing on Amerigo Gazaway’s “conceptual collaborations”.


Liam Maloney describes the challenges of interpreting a potential future for the music of Miles Davis


A composition seminar (admirably chaired by Neil Luck) rounded off the day. This featured three completely different perspectives on the processes and challenges of writing music today. Andreas Tsiartas, a new PhD student, discussed his own personal path so far in finding his compositional idiom. Diving head-first into issues surrounding modernity and national identity, it was an honest, clear and thought-provoking insight into his work.


Andreas Tsiartas discussing self-identity in the composition process


Next, PhD composer James Williamson discussed his piece, Fault-Klang, for solo bass clarinet, emphasising the collaborative writing journey between composer and performer that led to the finished product. It was a valuable perspective on the realities of writing with extended techniques for performers, and fell within the broader context of Psappha’s “Writing for…” scheme, where a composer works closely with a musician to develop a piece over six months.

Finally, Carlo Banhos Estolano discussed the process of assimilating important stylistic influences into his own personal style. Carlo’s presentation was replete with demonstrations, allowing full interaction with the sound worlds that he referred to.


Carlo Banhos Estolano demonstrates his music



We also received brilliant posters giving snapshots of current research from Petra Slavíková (Music Education), Mohammad Alosaimi (Music Education) and Oliver Pickup (Composition).

We would like to thank everyone who was involved and those who helped make the day a reality.

Please join us for the Autumn 2018 Postgraduate Forum. The call for papers/ compositions will be sent out in the summer.

One response to “Spring 2018 Postgraduate Forum Report”

  1. Neil Sorrell says:

    Owing to unfortunate timetabling clashes and other commitments I was unable to attend as much as I would have liked but I did manage to hear the papers by
    Samantha Caffull, Claire McGinn and Liam Maloney and I was so glad I did as they were excellent and beautifully delivered. My only regret is that I didn’t speak to the presenters in person as they (and I) had to dash off. Hopefully they’ll find out this way. Well done all.

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About the author

Owen came to the University of York to start his PhD in October 2016, having completed a BMus and an MA at Bangor University in North Wales. His thesis focuses on the distinctive, complex and often seemingly contradictory symphonic style of the influential Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016). These analytical considerations lead to broader questions…

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